Oakland A’s Tony Kemp (5) gives first base coach Eric Martins (3) a fist bump. Kemp in the bottom of the fifth inning connected for a three run home run that helped Oakland take the lead for good at the Oakland Coliseum on Tue Sep 20, 2022 (@Athletics photo)
Seattle (81-66). 1. 1. 1
Oakland (54-94). 4. 7. 2
Tuesday, September 20, 2022
By Lewis Rubman
OAKLAND-Tonight’s game at the Coliseum was an important one . . .
for the visiting Seattle Mariners. They woke up this morning occupying the last American League wild card spot with a record of 81-65, a half a game behind the Tampa Bay Rays (none in the lost column) and five games ahead of the Baltimore Orioles.
Tampa Bay was shut out by Western Division champion Houston tonight, and the O’s fell to the Tigers, so, after the Mariners had fallen to the Athletics, 4-1 in an improbable joint one hitter, the visitors from the Puget Sound still trailed the Rays by a half a game and led the Orioles by five.
Before the game, Oakland announced that the team had promoted Conner Capel from the AAA Aviators and optioned Cody Thomas to them. Both players are outfielders, and the A’s had claimed Capel off waivers from the Cardinals on September 9. He was in tonight’s starting lineup, batting seventh and playing in right field.
In onfield pregame activity, veteran utility man Tony Kemp received the Roberto Clemente Award for being the big leaguer who “best exemplifies […] baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team.”
JP Sears, Oakland’s starting pitcher tonight, looked good when he was with the Yankees and was impressive in his first three starts for the A’s. The numbers tell a story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Sears was 3-0, 2.05 with the Bronx Bombers; he went into tonight’s game at 0-2, 5.13 for green and gold. In his last start, the southpaw gave up five runs, all of them earned, on seven hits, in four innings.
He threw 80 pitches in that no decision against the Rangers in Arlington. He had trouble early in the game, due to a bad bounce and an error behind him, and gave up an unearned run in the second. That was the only run he allowed in his five inning stint on the mound.
The single that resulted from that bad bounce was the only hit Sears allowed. His pitch count was 86, of which 53 counted as strikes. He was tonight’s winning pitcher and now has a won-lost mark of 5-3 while his ERA fell to 3.58.
Seattle also sent a two-team hurler to the mound. Luis Castillo was 4-4, 2.86 with the Cincinnati Reds. Since coming to the Mariners, he was 3-1, 2.37 before tonight for an overall record of 7-5, 2.68. The 29 year old righty lasted 4- 2/3 innings tonight.
He started off strong but ran up against a wall with two away in the fifth. He allowed four runs on six hits, one of them for the distance, and two walks, striking out four. He threw 85 pitches, 33 of them in his unfinished fifth frame. He was charged with the loss and returned to his hotel with a record of 7-6, 2.85.
Seattle jumped ahead in the top of the second. Carlos Santana led off, sending a grounder to third that took a bad hop, causing Vimael Machín to back up and delay his throw to first, which arrived late and drew Dermís García off the bag.
The play was scored, correctly, as an infield hit. JP Crawford followed with a ground ball to second, tailor made for twin killing. But Jordán Díaz, who had been called up from Las Vegas and made his big league debut on Sunday, let it get past him for an error that put runners on the corners with nobody out. Sears bore down and struck out Dylan Moore and Abraham Toro.
But he walked Curt Casali and Sam Hagerty to force in an unearned run before Julio Rodríguez sent Seth Brown to just in front of the warning track in center to haul down his fly ball for the third out. It was Sears’ 37th pitch of the inning and 51st of the game. (Díaz atoned for his error by making a lightning grab of Santana’s scorching line drive to end Seattle’s scoreless top of the third.
Castillo was impregnable for 4-2/3 innings until Clemente Award winning Kemp breached his defenses with a three run homer to left that brought in Díaz, who had reached base on a force out, and Nick Allen, the recipient of Castillo’s first base on balls.
Machín and Murphy followed that 371 foot blast with back to back doubles to left, and, just like that, Oakland was on top, 4-0. After walking Seth Brown, Castillo was taken out in favor of Matt Brash, who fanned Shea Langeliers, the only batter he faced, to end the inning. It was Matt Festa who pitched the Oakland sixth and kept them off the board.
Sears was through after five innings. Joel Payamps retired the M’s in the sixth, allowing only one of them to reach base, and that on an error by Díaz, who made a brilliant play on a grounder by Haniger but drew García off first with his throw. AJ Puk pitched a perfect seventh.
Chris Flexen mounted the Mariners’ mound merry-go-round in the seventh, and Tyler Cyr replaced Puk in the top of the eighth. He had control problems, walking Jesse Winker, who pinch hit for Haggerty and Ty France on five. But, in between those free passes, the pitchers’ best friend came to his aid, he struck out Haniger to end his scoreless inning of work.
Domingo Acevedo set the Mariners down in order to gain his third save in six opportunities. Five, count ’em five, pitchers had combined to one hit the mighty M’s.
What new surprises are in store for us tomorrow, when at 6:40 the Athletics’ James Kaprielian (3-9, 4.70) will face off against the Mariners’ Robbie Ray (12-10, 3.72)?